Salvation Series: 5. Baptism

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The most important question anyone could ever ask and have correctly answered is, “What must I do to be saved?” (see Acts 16:30). In this series, we have already discussed salvation, true faith, the church, and repentance as they relate to salvation. In addition to those things, the New Testament also connects baptism with salvation.

He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Mark 16:161

The word baptism comes from the Greek language. Nearly every lexicon of the original Bible languages defines baptism as a dipping, plunging, and/or submerging. More than once the Bible describes baptism as a burial.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4 (see also Colossians 2:12)

Baptism involves being buried and being raised. However, it’s not done in dirt. It’s done in water.

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water…

Matthew 3:16

As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”… And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Acts 8:36, 38

Baptism is where someone’s physical body is dipped, plunged, or submerged in water to represent a burial, and then is raised out of the water to represent a resurrection.

What is baptism for? The Bible gives a simple answer to this question.

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 2:38

According to Scripture, baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. Many people try to explain why the Bible really doesn’t mean what it says here, but, they claim,  it’s supposed to say, “because the forgiveness of your sins.” However, that change to the Scriptures creates a big problem. When instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). The same phrase—“for forgiveness of sins”—is found in both passages in the English and Greek. To say that someone should be baptized because his or her sins have already been forgiven is to say that Jesus’ blood was shed because sins had already been forgiven. However, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (see Hebrews 9:22).

The Bible teaches that someone’s sins are washed away at baptism, which is the point at which Christ saves.

Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.

Acts 22:16

Corresponding to that [Noah’s salvation in the flood], baptism now saves you— not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience —through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:21

At baptism, a penitent believer makes an appeal to God for a clean conscience. At baptism, God grants that request by washing away sins.

According to the Bible:

  • Baptism saves (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
  • Baptism grants access to the kingdom of God (John 3:3–5).
  • Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
  • Baptism produces joy (Acts 8:38–39; 16:33–34).
  • Baptism washes away sins (Acts 22:16).
  • Baptism unites someone with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:1–7).
  • Baptism provides a new life (Romans 6:4).
  • Baptism crucifies the old life of sin (Romans 6:4–6).
  • Baptism places someone into Christ’s church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22–23).
  • Baptism places someone into Christ, where all spiritual blessings are (Galatians 3:26–27; Ephesians 1:3).

If you desire these blessings, you believe in Christ, you are ready to serve Him as your Lord, and you have repented of all past sins, then you’re ready for baptism.

Of course, obeying the Lord in anything—including baptism—never puts Him in our debt. That is to say, no matter what commandments we obey, we never earn our salvation. Obedience to Jesus and His gospel is not a works-based salvation, unless, of course, we are talking about the works of God! It’s simply following through with the servant-Lord relationship we desire. Jesus told a parable in Luke 17 about servants, and then He concluded with this in verse 10: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (ESV). The book of Hebrews reminds us that salvation is only for those who obey Him (see Hebrews 5:9).

And baptism is also only for those who are ready for a change in life and a commitment to living for Him. That’s why you’ll never see a single example or commandment of infants or young children being baptized in the Bible.

But what if you’ve been baptized before? Are you sure it was a biblical baptism? First of all, was it true immersion in water? Many people go through something called “baptism,” but what they received was only a sprinkling or pouring of water. That’s not biblical baptism. To be baptized biblically, you must be immersed.

Secondly, many people are immersed in water while believing that their sins are already forgiven. For example, a man might say something called the “Sinner’s Prayer,” which is a modern teaching in churches where sinners are instructed to “invite Jesus into their hearts.” Such instructions are not found in the Bible. Since an individual may have said that prayer, he may believe he is saved and has received forgiveness, which the Bible does not confirm. Then, he may be immersed in water for various reasons, but not for the forgiveness of sins, since he believes he is already forgiven. Of course, this is not biblical baptism. There are millions of people alive right now who have done this very thing. Notice the discourse between Paul and some men he found in Ephesus.

And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 19:3–5

These men had been “baptized” before. They certainly would have been sincere while doing so. However, it was not the same valid baptism Christ commanded. When they heard this, did they argue about their experiences or what some preacher had taught them? No, but as soon as they heard the truth about baptism, they denied their first baptism and did it right!

Does this describe you? Have you been “baptized” before, but with the wrong type of baptism? Or have you never been baptized before at all? Either way, Ananias would say to you the same thing he said to Saul:

Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.

Acts 22:16

On that occasion, Saul did obey the Lord. He is better known now as the apostle Paul. Let’s look closely at what he had to say about his baptism in Romans 6. This passage reveals that he personally believed that baptism was the moment he was crucified with Jesus, united with the Lord’s death and blood, God did away with his old life and provided a new life, he was set free from sin, and he received the promise of a future resurrection from the dead.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.

Romans 6:1–8

Can you speak of salvation with such confidence? If not, why do you delay? View the final lesson here.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ↩︎
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